Young Texas GOP groups take their battle to court

The Texas Young Republican Federation (TYRF) has secured a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the founder of the Young Republicans of Texas (YRT), a splinter group with whom the organization is embroiled in a political fight.

Last week, Dallas Judge Martin Hoffman granted the TRO request against YRT founder Chad Cohen, pending a fuller hearing on the issue. As of that hearing, only Cohen had been served with the suit and therefore the TRO only applies to him.

Cohen is ordered to disclose that YRT is affiliated with the state party and not TYRF or its national federation.

Filed in a Dallas County district court in October, TYRF’s suit alleges YRT’s founders are intentionally misrepresenting themselves as the “Young Republican” group in the state. TYRF asked the court for a restraining order against the use of the name and monetary relief of up to $250,000.

“This new group flipped a couple of words around, forming an organization and brand that is extremely difficult to differentiate from our own,” TYRF Chairman Derrick Wilson said in a release. “As a result, confusion among many current members, as well as prospective members, has ensued.”

“Our ask is simple for this new organization — find a name and brand of your own instead of infringing on one that has been paramount for nearly seven decades.”

The suit alleges a breach of contract, namely that the moniker “Young Republican” is intellectual property that belongs to TYRF; a tortious interference in causing a breakdown with “potential business partners”; a trademark infringement; and a “dilution of [TYRF’s] mark.”

Attorneys for the defendants, the collection of members who started the YRT group, argued that granting the restraining order would abridge their First Amendment rights.

“Supreme Court jurisprudence on the First Amendment is crystal clear on the subject of ex parte TROs restricting speech,” the defendants’ brief reads. “American courts are not allowed to restrain speech at the TRO or temporary injunction phase because there cannot be final determination that such speech is unprotected.”

“Furthermore, Plaintiff can meet none of the elements required for issuance of extraordinary relief and their conduct clearly establishes there is no imminent harm from allowing [a] group of young Republicans affiliated with the Republican Party ofTexas to call themselves ‘Young Republicans.’”

A cease and desist letter was sent back in September.

This suit is another chapter in a broader turf war between factions of the Texas GOP.

TYRF, which has been in existence since 1957, voted in August to disassociate from the Republican Party of Texas (RPT) after its chairman, Matt Rinaldi, briefly campaigned against Hayden Padgett, the Texan TYRF-endorsed candidate for the chairmanship of the Young Republican National Federation.

Wilson and the rest of the organization cited Rinaldi’s involvement in the race and other points of friction with the state party chairman as their reasons for the disassociation. The same day, TYRF de-federated its Dallas chapter, one of the largest chapters in the state, chaired by Chad Cohen. The decision was welcomed by both sides of the tiff.

Following that vote some members of TYRF, including Cohen, voted to disassociate from it and reorganize themselves as YRT, to which RPT granted auxiliary status in September.

“In light of TYRF’s decision to leave the Republican Party of Texas and its vote of ‘no confidence’ in Chairman Rinaldi, DYR cannot be a part of TYRF,” Cohen said in a statement at the time to Current Revolt. “Our membership has experienced explosive growth over the last four years, largely because of our focus on fighting for ‘Texas First’ policies and approaching the work of grassroots activism with seriousness.”

“Our membership cannot contribute to and support TYRF while it actively works against our membership’s policy priorities and the Republican Party of Texas.”

Though the original disassociation was more than anything else a signal of disapproval — TYRF said it would not be tied to RPT so long as Rinaldi was chair — it’s since boiled over into the prolonged dispute over the direction of Texas’ majority political party.

While it was far from the fissure’s origin, the Texas House impeachment and Senate acquittal of Attorney General Ken Paxton tossed a bucket of gasoline onto the already raging fire.

Wilson was among those in GOP circles who didn’t come out firing against the impeachment, unlike Rinaldi who was against it from the very beginning. That rift served as a basis for the YRT splinter led by Cohen, who was and remains the chairman of the Dallas Young Republican chapter.

The initial hearing on the temporary restraining order can be viewed here. The parties will be back in court on December 1 for a hearing on the requested temporary injunction.

The Young Republicans of Texas did not return a request for comment.

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